Growing Carrots

Latest Update 3rd July 2016.

  • I sow carrots thinly twice a year in a group.  I harvest them without thinning in bunches from one end of this group.
  • I mostly steam or roast them in their skins or shred them onto salads when they are small and succulent.  As they get bigger they become an important component in vegetable soups and casseroles.
  • Carrots grow slowly and can be harvested when required directly from the soil, pulling them out in small bunches to be cooked and eaten right away.
  • You will not find sweeter carrots than those grown organically in your own garden.
  • Carrots are a great source of dietary fibre and micronutrients. 
  • I have grown Carrots for many years in my garden without significant pest problems.
  • Binomial Name:                                        Daucus carota.
  • Family group:                                           Apiaceae. 
  • Variety:                                                    Nantes.
  • Crop rotation group:                                  Light feeders.
  • Garden bed type:                                      Garden Ecobed.
  • Recommended soil pH:                             5.5 - 7.0.
  • Minimum sun per day:                              5 hours.
  • Plant spacing:                                          Broadcast then thin out.
  • Weeks to harvest:                                    12 - 18 weeks.
  • Good companions:                                   Pea. radish. lettuce. sage. onion. leek.
  • Climate:                                                   Warm temperate.
  • Geography:                                              Southern hemisphere.
  • This food is very low in saturated fat and cholesterol. 
  • It is a good source of vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, pantothenic acid, iron, potassium and copper, and a very good source of dietary fibre, vitamin A, vitamin K and manganese. 
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    Growing Conditions: 
    • They grow best in full sun.
    • Carrots can be grown all year round, but they are best sown in cooler conditions (15- 25 deg C is ideal).
    • They need well aged rich organic soil.
    • The soil must be kept moist during propagation.
    Soil Preparation.
    • As soon as the previous crop has been harvested in February, remove the mulch and crop waste and add it to the compost heap.
    • Select a space 1500mm x 300mm for carrots and add a 60mm layer of thermal compost.  Cover the compost with a 50mm surface mulch of fresh straw.
    • Leave the bed for 4 weeks to build up worm and microbial activity.
    Growing Instructions.
    • In March, remove the mulch from the prepared bed and add about 5mm of good organic seed growing mix or finely sieved compost.  Combine half a teaspoonful of seed with fine sand in a large jar with a perforated lid.  Shake it up well and scatter the mixture on top of the prepared soil in a 300mm wide band.  Apply a light covering of sieved compost or organic seed growing mix.
    • The sand helps controls the density and distribution of your carrots.  Water them in well and keep them moist until they germinate.
    • They take a lot longer than most vegetable seeds, so be patient.
    • Thin them out as they grow, and once the size is right, start to harvest them for the kitchen, or just let them grow until finger size and harvest them in small bunches as you need them from one end of the bed.  Cover any exposed roots with soil or compost.
    • Apply a foliar spray of aerated compost tea every 4 weeks with all the other edible plants.
    Repeat sowing.
    • Make a repeat sowing (after preparing a new bed) in September.
    • Its spring in September in Melbourne and usually warmer than the 15 deg C needed for carrot seed germination.  Wait a little longer if its cooler where you live.
    • Carrots should not be grown more than once in the same spot in the same season, so follow other members of the crop rotation group instead.  In my case this usually means following beetroot, with a succession sowing of beetroot going into the vacated carrot bed.
    Harvesting and Storage.
    • If you have planted the right quantity, you will finish harvesting them when they are at their peak size and quality.
    • Store your carrots in the soil where they grow, unless you need space for other crops.
    • Harvest your carrots by grasping the foliage as close to their roots as possible and carefully pull them out of the soil.  Fill the hole left behind with soil or compost.
    • I don't peel carrots fresh from the garden, I cook them in their skins after removing soil with a vegetable brush.  
    • To store carrots, clean and blanch them in boiling water for 2 minute.  After cooling and drying store them in the freezer in zip bags.  Alternatively, if your climate allows, grow them all year round and store them in the soil until needed.
    Organic Pest Control.
    • Slugs and snails. 
      • Carrots need protection against slugs and snails, so use self adhesive copper tape around the base of the Ecobed to keep them out.
    • Greenhouse Whitefly.  
      • Aerated compost tea improves the plants resistance to whitefly damage.
      • Exclusion netting is very effective against whitefly, but they are very small and will occasionally breach your defenses, so you will need to check your crop regularly.  
      • Control any infestations by spray your crop thoroughly with organic horticultural oil (Eco-oil in Australia).  
      • Spray again in a few days to ensure second generation whitefly do not survive.
    • Carrot fly. 
      • Crop rotation interrupts the reproductive cycle of carrot fly.  It removes their host from the bed in which they over-wintered as pupae.  The next years Carrot crop is sown in a new bed free from carrot fly.  
      • Carrot fly travel close to the ground and raised garden beds are a significant obstacle.  Pest exclusion netting also keeps them out of your Ecobed.
      • Sow carrot seeds thinly to reduce or eliminate thinning.  Carrot fly is attracted by the scent of exposed carrot root.
      • Alliums (onion family) are said to be good companions because they mask the carrot's scent.  
      • Good soil management helps control carrot fly.  Steinernema spp, is a predatory nematode which kills carrot fly larvae.   It's commonly found in biologically active soil so I apply generous quantities of home made compost to maintain this activity in my soil.
      • Carrot fly usually lay their eggs on bare soil, so a careful application of mulch around the carrots helps interrupt the fly's reproductive cycle.
    • Birds. 
      • Exclusion netting stops birds digging for worms.  Blackbirds are the main culprits in my garden.  
      • I don't mind them getting a few from my ornamental beds especially when they have young to feed, but they are attracted to Ecobeds because of the abundant population of worms in the soil, so I keep them out.
    • Hot dry windy weather. 
      • In our climate plant dehydration is a constant issue in summer, and I use the exclusion netting with its 20% shade factor to protect my carrots against the sun as well as insect and bird pests.  
      • In extremely hot and windy weather I add a layer of heavy duty shadecloth to the top of the Ecobed's exclusion frame to minimise plant damage.